Search Engine Optimization 101
A Quick Guide Compiled by the Friendly SEO Experts at Global Reach
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, is an online marketing tactic used to organically grow a website’s visibility within search results. It involves both technical and creative strategies, and requires the optimization of both on and off-site elements.
How Do Search Engines Work?
At a very high level, there are three main job functions that a search engine performs: crawling, indexing, and delivering search results to users via a complex ranking algorithm.
“Web crawlers” are used to discover webpages on the World Wide Web. These crawlers parse webpages and follow links from one page to another. As they crawl, they gather and pass data about each page crawled back to the search engine’s servers. Each time a new crawl begins, it starts with the list of websites accessed during the previous crawl, as well as by parsing sitemaps that have been directly provided to the search engine by website owners. With each crawl, search engine bots know to pay special consideration to new websites, new or changed content, and new or broken links.
Building an Index
After search engines crawl the web, they must make sense of the data collected. From the pages gathered during the crawling process, an index is created to help the search engine find specific information so that when a search is performed for a given query, it can be matched to a selection of webpages containing that query.
We wish it were as simple as matching keywords to pages, but search engines have grown to be much more sophisticated than that. Search Engines, like Google, have algorithms in place that take over 200 ranking factors into consideration. In fact, Google’s indexing process is capable of notating many different aspects of a page – for instance, when it was published, if it contains pictures and videos, the quality and quantity of inbound links, and much more. Each time a query is entered into the Google Search box, these algorithms consider the 200+ factors to help determine search intent, and then, deliver only top quality webpages that provide the most relevant answer to the search query made.
While new ranking factors are added and tested all the time, there are a few basic SEO tactics and strategies that have been agreed upon for some time. This guide is meant to help you leverage those basic SEO fundamentals so that you can drive more organic traffic to your website!
On-Page SEO involves optimizing the various elements of a webpage that can impact where a page will rank in search results when a given search query is made.
Without content, a crawler has nothing to crawl and nothing to index. Content is the reason a user would want to find your webpage in the first place.
This is why it is extremely important to create quality content for each of the pages you hope to rank within search results. As a rule, good content should meet a need or demand.
You can add and update pages and content at any time within SiteViz Premier’s page editor:
- Use keyword variations throughout the page in natural ways, and be sure you include them in the title tag, heading tags and meta description for each page
- Provide information, resources, or answers to common questions
- Include links to other relevant pages when it makes sense to do so, be it to another page of your website, or to a relevant article from a different website
- Add new content and update existing content regularly to maintain relevance
Title tags, also known as ‘Window Titles’ can be found in the browser tab of a webpage. They also appear as the title of the search result within search engines. These tags serve to define a title for the webpage, and should effectively describe an online document. Aside from overall content, title tags are the most important on-page element of SEO.
SiteViz Premier will generate a window title automatically based on the page name entered, but you can edit and optimize this field at any time within SiteViz Premier under the ‘Content Optimization’ section of the page editor:
- Write these to be keyword-rich
- Try to use the selected keyword at the beginning of title tag
- Use localization if your business is localized (e.g. Des Moines)
- Try to keep length to 70 characters, spaces included
Description tags provide a concise explanation of a webpage’s content and are commonly displayed by search engines on search engine results pages. While not used directly by search engines in their ranking algorithms, description tags serve to inform searchers what a given page is about, and if employed effectively, can improve clicks to your website from search result pages.
Meta Descriptions can be added and edited under the ‘Content Optimization’ section of SiteViz Premier’s page editor:
- Write these to be descriptive and keyword-rich
- Use a strong call to action
- Try to keep length to 155 characters, spaces included
Heading 1 Tag (H1 Tag)
Heading tags are generally used to display page headings and other prominent text on a page. They are one of the many ranking factors used by search engines to determine the topic area of a given page.
The Heading 1 (H1) tag can be edited under the ‘Name’ field in SiteViz Premier’s page editor:
- Write these to be descriptive and keyword-rich
- Try to use target keywords at the beginning of the heading tag
Heading 2, 3, 4 Tags
If your content will be long form, help both search engines and users to scan and parse it more quickly by defining a heading hierarchy.
Heading 2, 3, 4, etc. can be designated within the SiteViz Premier page editor:
- Break up longer content into relevant sections using heading 2, 3, 4 tags
- Strategically target relevant keywords within each heading title so that it conveys the focus of each content section
Images are another signal search engines use to determine page rank. Since search engines cannot read an image, it is important that the image file name and the image alternative text describes what the image represents.
Alternative Text can be added within SiteViz Premier’s page editor by right-clicking on the image, selecting ‘image properties’, and specifying your alternative text within the respective field:
- Use images with keyword-rich file names
- Specify keyword-rich image alternative text
- BONUS - Ensure you resize and compress images prior to upload, as large files can increase page load times, which can negatively impact your SEO
Links are still one of the most effective ways to improve your SEO. After all, without links, Google would not discover new content.
Backlinks, or incoming links from an external website or blog, from credible, high authority domains signal to search engines that your content is very useful and relevant.
The bad news is, getting links is not easy and must come naturally over time. Black hat tactics like buying links, no longer work and are in fact risky, as this practice can cause Google to remove your website from their index completely.
Good link building stems from good relationship building. An active participation in relevant online groups and communities can help to gain your website some quality backlinks.
- Become involved in your industry’s online communities and forums
- Post your content and converse with others participating
- Contribute resources and make relevant comments to the posts of others
Start a blog
By starting a blog on your website, you can become a resource to your visitors and give them a reason to check back often for new information. If you keep at it and promote it enough, you’ll eventually gain links and build authority.
- Choose relevant topics that focus on the needs of your clients
- Invest time and effort into posting regularly
- Utilize relevant keywords in the content and meta data for each entry
Offer to guest blog for a website in a relevant industry
Reach out to industry relevant websites and volunteer to contribute content in exchange for a link. There are many websites and blogs looking for content to publish. Identify those websites relevant to your line of work, and submit your content.
- Only offer to guest blog for websites relevant to your industry
- Don’t try to shamelessly plug your products or services
- Focus on quality and make sure your content is well thought out, professionally written, and interesting
Social media marketing and SEO are two different, but closely intertwined online marketing strategies. While the approaches may differ, the end goal is the same: Both are forms of inbound marketing that strive to attract visitors via a strong online presence.
Grow Your Social Media Following
Search Engines pay attention to the number of followers and connections your brand has made on social media, and this influences rankings. Focus on attracting new followers and connections organically.
- Communicate your unique brand messaging consistently, using the same tone to converse with your audience on a regular basis
- Give users a reason to follow you by becoming a resource, posting handy articles, useful tips, or promoting special deals or contests
- Engage in conversations with your followers to build relationships and help retain a large, social audience. Doing so can encourage current followers to continue to utilize your content, which will in turn help you to accumulate the authority needed to attract new followers
Encourage Links via Social Sharing
Social media is the perfect stage to display the content you’ve worked so hard to optimize. It can be leveraged as a form of link building because it encourages external websites to link to and share your content. The more quality links you receive, the more authority you’ll earn in the eyes of search engines.
- Use hashtags to propel your content beyond your following
- Offer incentives for sharing content
Optimizing Your Posts for Searches
Google indexes the whole web, including the content you publish to social media channels. Use this to your advantage!
- Use target keywords within the link descriptions of your social media posts
- Optimize for seasonality or current events to prove timeliness and relevance of content
- Hook users in with a question or a bold fact
When it comes to local SEO, online listings are priority. Local business listings are essentially online profiles that list out important information about your business.
Every business with a physical storefront should claim, verify and complete listings per location. Below are some of the most effective and popularly used platforms:
- Google My Business
- Bing Places
- Yellow Pages
- On each listing you claim and verify, be sure your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number), is consistent across platforms
- Take time to select relevant business categories and photos to provide users and search engines an even more complete picture of your business
- Once your listings are completed, embark on a review gathering campaign to build up your online reputation and help solidify your off-site presence